Obituary: D. Donald Peddie, human resources executive and Harvard booster

  • Article by: DAVID PHELPS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 30, 2013 - 6:52 PM

D. Donald Peddie

D. Donald Peddie bled Harvard Crimson red when it came to the mission of his world-renowned alma mater.

For decades, he was a volunteer front-line recruiter of student athletes for the Ivy League university where he was a standout on Harvard’s golf team and once told president-in-waiting John F. Kennedy that JFK’s 8 handicap was “not going to cut it” for Kennedy to make the varsity.

Peddie, 93, died March 13 from congestive heart failure. He was a longtime resident of Edina and a lifelong lover of northern Minnesota.

But it was his Harvard background and connection that defined Peddie and made him a beloved ambassador to generations of Minnesotans and others who chose Harvard as their college home.

“He just opened doors,” said James Ullyot, a quarterback who, like his older brother before him, was discovered by Peddie on a high school football field and recruited by Harvard. “I was being recruited by several teams and Don persuaded me to think about the long term and I did.”

Peddie grew up in Minneapolis and graduated from Blake School as a golfing standout. After graduating from Harvard in 1941, Peddie turned down an offer to go pro and decided an MBA provided more stable opportunities.

After a mostly stateside stint in the Army during World War II, Peddie returned to Minneapolis to work for Minneapolis Moline followed by 25 years at the Star Tribune as a human resources executive. From there he became program director for the Bush Leadership Program, helping midcareer professionals develop as leaders.

Peddie scoured newspaper clippings and picked people’s brains in search of potential Harvard students from the Midwest.

“Many of those people wouldn’t have considered Harvard if it weren’t for Don Peddie,” said longtime friend Cliff Erickson, who also is active the Harvard Club of Minnesota. “When we sent out a notice of his passing, almost everyone who responded said, ‘He changed my life.’ ”

Peddie was known for the short, typed notes on 3x5 cards that he sent to recruits, students, coaches and administrators. Those notes were known as “Peddiegrams.”

He was married to Betty Bell in 1943 until she died of cancer in 1991. Peddie remarried in 1996 to Betty Howe, who died in 2009. Peddie also lost a daughter, Donna, to cancer in 1982.

“He had the classic Minnesota response. He didn’t whine, he didn’t complain,” daughter Sandra said. “He was always meeting new people.”

When Peddie’s considerable golfing skills began to wane, he took up bridge with a passion. After he retired, Peddie also wrote a golf column for the Lake Country Echo in Pequot Lakes. His surviving daughters called him “smart, perceptive and always garrulous.” Sandra said that in one of her last conversations with her father he talked about the Harvard hockey team.

Peddie is survived by daughters Sandra (Brian Quinn) of Long Island, N.Y., Monica (Thomas Cooner) of Minneapolis, son-in-law David Van Wie of Prior Lake, and two grandchildren.

Services were held on March 18 at Colonial Church in Edina.

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